Thursday, March 10, 2011

"Basic Advice on How to Interpret Luther"

Carl Trueman analyzes Rob Bell's use of a Luther quotation.

9 comments:

James Swan said...

Oh Sure, Trueman puts a little quote back in context, and everyone is jumping for joy!

Just kidding. It was a good catch. A few people e-mailed me the link

James Swan said...

By the way, I'm not exactly sure who Rob Bell is.

natamllc said...

James,

for better or for worse, some people should not know who he is and others should!

You might be one that should, in time? But, maybe not?? :)

Constantine said...

I think Rob is considered "emergent". He is a young pastor of a wildly successful church in Grand Rapids, MI, I think. And a somewhat prolific author.

You can Google him to be sure.

(When did "Google" become a verb?)

Peace.

James Swan said...

I think Rob is considered "emergent". He is a young pastor of a wildly successful church in Grand Rapids, MI, I think. And a somewhat prolific author.

Thx, that's about all I knew about the guy to begin with. I've not read any of his matierials, or listened to him speak.

I echo what Carl Trueman said:

Rob Bell has, as far as I know, no impact on my tiny world, whether conceived of as that of Westminster Theological Seminary, or as that of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.

I would second that. Other than his name, my tiny world does not recognize him.

If I recall, Carl Trueman graded some of my course work via Westminster a few years ago. If memory serves, the class was actually on the theology of Martin Luther.

Constantine said...

Hi James,

Bell's book, “Velvet Elvis” (Zondervan, 2005) was brought to my attention by our new pastor. It is a sort of stream-of-consciousness writing with a lot of white space. It begins in a fairly orthodox manner but it seems that wheels come off toward the end.

Bell is clearly a universalist, which I think is part of the current uproar over his upcoming book.

Here are some examples from “Elvis”:

“And when Jesus died on the cross, he died for everybody. Everybody. Everywhere...Everybody's sins on the cross with Jesus.' p. 145

“Hell is full of forgiven people.” p. 146

“Another truth about the church we're embracing is that the gospel is good news, especially for those who don't believe it.” p. 166

And this pithy little jewel...”If the gospel isn't good news for everybody, then it isn't good news for anybody.” p. 167

And there is a strong strain of works righteousness:

“Jesus tells a parable about the kind of people who will live with God forever. It is a story of judgment, of God evaluating the kind of lives people have lived. First he deals with the “righteous”, who gave food to the hungry, gave water to the thirsty, welcomed the stranger, clothed the naked, and visited the prisoner. These are the kind of people who spend forever with God. Jesus measures their eternal standings in terms of not what they said or believed but how they lived, specifically in regard to the hell around them.” p. 148

It's easy to see why some are uneasy with him.

This is certainly not an exhaustive list, but it may be representative.

Peace.

John Lollard said...

Constantine, with the exception of the hubbub surrounding the upcoming book, I don't think Bell's statements make him any more a universalist than any Arminian.

Bell's comments on the Gospel being good news to everyone is pretty solidly contextualized in the passage you quoted - someone receiving the Good News themselves become a "good news" (therefore hence the comments Dr. White criticized). Bells comments about Hell being full of forgiven people aren't much further out than denying unlimited atonement. Lewis made similar comments, and I know y'all don't like his theology, but Bell isn't any more controversial in his theology than Lewis.

If your circle includes young adult Christians, then Bell has an influence in your circle, by the way.

Constantine said...

Hi John Lollard,

Let me begin by wishing you a blessed Lent.

You commented, “...with the exception of the hubbub surrounding the upcoming book, I don't think Bell's statements make him any more a universalist than any Arminian.”

I've gotten my nose bloodied a few times during the past year by assuming I really knew what Arminianism is, only to realize that I only thought I knew. So, your comment necessarily causes me to be careful in response as I am just now becoming accustomed to having my nose back!

Perhaps the leading Arminian apologist today is Dr. Roger Olson from Baylor. Dr. Olson is a true scholar with a winsome heart. In his book, “Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities” (which I can highly recommend while certainly maintaining my disagreements) Dr. Olson notes, “Only those will be saved, however, who are predestined by God to eternal salvation.” (p. 35) While not trying to be disagreeable to you, John, I read that as a contradiction to Bell. So I conclude that Bell is not really Arminian but truly Universalist. But, maybe I'm wrong....

JL, once more: ”Bell's comments on the Gospel being good news to everyone is pretty solidly contextualized in the passage you quoted

If we let him set the context. It seems to me, though, that adopting a “Christian” or especially a “Reformed Christian” context places Bell on the outside. If you read John 17:12, I don't think we can say the Gospel was good news for Judas!

JL: ”Bells comments about Hell being full of forgiven people aren't much further out than denying unlimited atonement.

If he denied unlimited atonement he'd be a Calvinist and not Arminian, right? Maybe I missed your meaning here.

JL: ”If your circle includes young adult Christians, then Bell has an influence in your circle, by the way.

I think you are right – and that is a big concern. Although I haven't yet read it, this past week I just happened to pick up Mark Noll's book, “The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind”. Noll laments the fact that “American evangelicals are not exemplary for their thinking, and they have not been so for several generations.” Ouch! I know I have a lot of work to do. Let's pray for the young Christians!

Peace to you, John. Thanks for your thoughtfulness.

John Lollard said...

Hey Constantine,

You didn't miss anything in my comment about Bell denying the unlimited atonement. It was late and I was tired and writing on an iphone :P. I meant limited atonement being what Bell denies.

To be perfectly honest, I don't understand Arminianism very much either and I'm from Arminian traditions. If you believe, though, that Jesus' sacrifice was for the sins of all and that it is to the individual whether they deny or accept that sacrifice (which might be semi-pelagianism? still a common belief) then it makes sense to say that people in Hell are forgiven and have refused forgiveness. It certainly doesn't mean they're saved - they're in Hell - but that even there and for all eternity they refuse to accept the mercies of God.

But then I must confess that lost my copy of Velvet Elvis and so I may just be mispeaking and filling in gaps with my own guesses - probably a bad idea.

Constantine, have you read Bell's book "Sex God"? I'd be interested in hearing a Reformed appraisal of the message therein.

Anyway, I've read all Bell's stuff and universalism has never struck me. Maybe he's an inclusivist? His theology doesn't seem much stranger than Lewis' at any rate, and Lewis' stuff is used as a textbook in classes on Christian thought.

Not like that makes it good.

Thank you for a very irenic response. Hope you have a blessed Lent as well!